An Inscription Mentioning The Murder Of ʿUthmān B. ʿAffān, c. 36 AH / 656 CE

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First Composed: 30th December 2014

Last Modified: 3rd May 2020

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:



Figure (a) original inscription and (b) its contents.


c. 36 AH / 656 CE.


Not known.

Register Number



Kufic script.


The translation of the inscription is:

  1. I am Qays, the
  2. scribe of Abū
  3. Kutayr. Curse of G-
  4. -od on [those]
  5. who murdered ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān
  6. and [those who] have led to the killing
  7. without mercy.


This is earliest inscription discovered so far with a political dimension. The author of the text was shocked by the murder of ʿUthmān and invokes God's wrath on the assassins. He also uses the slightly modified phrase from Qur'an 33:61 quttilū taqtīlā to show his intense disapproval of the general state of affairs. It is worthwhile noting that the title amīr al-muʾminīn is absent and no eulogy follows after the mention of caliph ʿUthmān's name. This can also be observed in other early inscriptions mentioning important early historical figures. ʿUthmān was killed at the end of the year 35 AH / 655 CE. According to Imbert, this inscription most probably dates from the year 36 AH / 656 CE, when the Battle of the Camel occurred.[1] Note the absence of the long alif vowel in the spelling of ‘ʿUthmān’ and ‘ʿAffān’.

Moshe Sharon has published an inscription from Khirbat Jalamah, Palestine, mentioning the name of caliph ʿUthmān, that he attributes to his reign, c. 23 AH / 644 CE.[2] Neither the prosopographic data nor the palaeographic data support such a specific early date. When the aforementioned criteria are carefully considered, this inscription is probably at least 100 years later than Sharon assumes. Additionally, Sharon states this is the first time, to his knowledge, the name of the third caliph appears on an inscription. In addition to the text presented above, there are at least three other early undated inscriptions mentioning ʿUthmān attributable to the late Umayyad / early Abbasid period. Two are tomb inscriptions from aI-Muʿallāt cemetery in Mecca and the other is a building inscription from Iskāf Banī Junayd, Iraq.[3]


Taymāʾ, Saudi Arabia.

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[1] F. Imbert, "Califes, Princes et Poètes Dans Les Graffiti du Début de l’Islam", Romano-Arabica, 2015, Volume 15, pp. 65-66 and p. 75 (Fig. 3).

[2] M. Sharon, Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, 2017, Volume 6–J(1), Handbook of Oriental Studies: Volume 30, Brill: Leiden & Boston, Inscription 50, pp. 160-161 and pp. 264-266.

[3] A. A. Shahin, Struggling For Communitas: Arabian Political Thought In The Great Century Of Change (CA. 560-CA. 660 AD), 2009, Volume 2, Ph.D. thesis (unpublished), University of Chicago, pp. 419-420 & pp. 423-424.

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